70 Attend First G.R.O.W. Gathering

70 Attend First G.R.O.W. Gathering

Rev. Darrell Goodwin, Rev. Bette McClure and Rev. Liz Garrigan-Byerly welcome attendees
Seventy people from the four Associations of the Southeast Region of the Southern New England Conference came together on Sunday, March 12, for the first of six G.R.O.W. Together regional gatherings.

After three years of Conference gatherings being held primarily online due to the pandemic, those who attended said they appreciated the opportunity to come together in person.

“We had an AMAZING time this afternoon in the Southeast Region with lots of conversation, community building, resource sharing, and laughter,” Rev. Ruth Shaver said, adding that even with the fatigue of the clock change “it was worth powering through to be together with friends new and old.”

The three-hour gathering was divided up into segments, with Executive Conference Minister the Rev. Darrell Goodwin and Executive Minister for Area Conference Ministry the Rev. Liz Garrigan-Byerly taking turns leading conversation around Generosity, Revitalization, Outreach, and Wonder. During much of the time, participants were encouraged to talk in small groups about successes and challenges in each of those areas. Some went on to then share what they had said or heard with the full gathering.

One pastor talked about a spontaneous “pray-ground’ that had sprouted up at her church when worship was moved to the fellowship hall to save on heat, and children felt free to sit on the floor and play together during worship. Another talked about how a ministry to give out gift cards to those in need one day a week had developed into a used clothing ministry. Still another said that learning how to boldly ask for money – for stewardship, for a capital campaign – had transformed her congregation.

Rev. Nell Fields, pastor of the Waquoit Congregational Church, said after the gathering: “I took away several big ideas and four practical ideas for our congregation that we can do right away.”
Attendees talked in small groups

For example, she said, hearing Rev. Goodwin mention conversations around a partnership with an improv group in Hartford, in which pastors could work on their presentation styles with improv performers, Rev. Fields realized she could initiate the same type of partnership for the clergy association in her area with a local improv theater instructor. She also said that hearing Rev. Goodwin talk about his work to add a faith-based team to a national gay rights organization gave her the idea to suggest doing the same with Cape Cod Pride.

And, she said, the final blessing of the day – when participants were encouraged to look one another in the eye and say “you matter” –  reminded her of a program she took part in previously, in which she handed out cards that say “you matter.” She realized, she said, that it is time to do that again.

“Now is the time to do these things,” she said. “There is a sense of urgency. People need hope, people are hungering for connection. Is it going to be the UCC they connect with, or someone else?”

The next regional gathering is March 19 in Middlebury, CT, and others are scheduled in April, May and June. Dates, locations and registration can be found here.



tiffany vail cropped.jpg
Tiffany Vail

Tiffany Vail is the Director of Media & Communications for the Southern New England Conference.

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